Fear of Fireworks - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-26-2017, 11:04 PM Thread Starter
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Fear of Fireworks

What's the best way to handle GSD's that are terrified of fireworks? While our Husky stands outside and enjoys the show, our GSD gets so scared she refuses go outside to potty. Last year, my husband had problems getting her to go outside for a month after the 4th. I couldn't get her to go outside at all because she's too heavy for me to lift and every time I tried to grab her by the collar she would twist so I had to let go to avoid wrist injury. .Are there medications a veterinarian can prescribe to keep GSD's from being afraid? Does having them boarded for a few days work (maybe the dog would associate the loud noise with that environment instead of outside at home)?
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post #2 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-26-2017, 11:45 PM
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Is there anyone that can keep her where she will not hear fireworks. Or a room in the home. Basement or something she can stay in during fireworks.
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post #3 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-26-2017, 11:58 PM Thread Starter
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I play loud music, but sooner or later she has to go outside to potty. One never knows when a firework will sound. All it takes is her hearing just one and she runs inside and refuses to go back out for days without being forced. Is there any way to get a dog to stop fearing fireworks?
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post #4 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-27-2017, 12:11 AM
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Does she have the same reaction with thunder, guns, or other loud noises?
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post #5 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-27-2017, 02:28 AM Thread Starter
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She's afraid of most loud sounds. After a loud thunderstorm, it can be difficult to get her to go outside the rest of that day. Fireworks seem to scare her worse than anything else.
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post #6 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-27-2017, 04:23 AM
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This may (or not) work......Start by playing fireworks sound effects very softly while feeding her treats. When she's comfortable, slowly increase the sound up a level while still feeding treats, when comfortable with that level ... etc etc

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post #7 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-27-2017, 05:26 AM
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Another option would be to engage her in some kind of fun activity with a soft fireworks sound in the background. For example, our dog loves playing fetch, so one option for us would be to do so. If the dog doesn't react at all to sound, then the idea would be to increase its volume. The goal is to find a balance between an intensity of the sound that your dog can hear but is comfortable enough to ignore, and when she gets used to it very gradually increase the intensity. Giving her some meds may also help her to deal with it better, but you should go to a vet or an ethologist (probably both) in this case.

Be aware that this is not a problem you're likely to solve in a a few days, it will require months or maybe years.

You could also try sending her calming signals (e.g. yawning) while the fireworks sound in the background and you feed her treats or play with her. It's also important that you remain calm and don't make a fuss about the dog's reaction. I recommend Turid Rugaas's book On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals if you're interested in the topic. One of the case studies in the book was of a dog that lived near a train track and would become terrified every time a train passed by.
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post #8 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-27-2017, 08:00 AM
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I've used human grade melatonin for an IW that developed thunder storm anxiety following a horrendous derecho several years ago. (That storm scared the bejezus out of me too --- especially when several mature oaks started coming down). That and keeping her in the below ground basement, with classical music playing, kept her "reasonably" calm during storms and July 4th celebrations.

Keep in mind that desensitization (as described above) works best when you can pair it with some kind of anti-anxiety drug/supplement, like melatonin, for example. Also, desensitization is not a "one off," it requires repeated, carefully targetted exposures, over time, that you'll ramp up/reduce as the training progresses. Best if you can find a qualified behaviorist to help you with this. And, of course, talk to your vet about the melatonin or another supplement/medication.

Last edited by Aly; 06-27-2017 at 08:05 AM.
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post #9 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-27-2017, 10:00 AM
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It is a nerve issue and you'll have to learn to live with it.
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post #10 of 39 (permalink) Old 06-27-2017, 11:49 AM
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I have found that the Thundershirt works for my girl. However, I am always worried she gets too hot in it (and you have to wake her up to remove it). The last few thunderstorms I have used essential oils with positive results.

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Diva (Aphrodite de Domus Didacus, born December 4, 2009)
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